Supported above a plaza in the old quarter of Seville Spain is the Metropol Parasol. More of a massive sculpture than a functional building, the wooden structure shades La Encarnación Square. The structure consists of six giant mushroom-shaped parasols that are connected together to make a continuous cover over the plaza. It is claimed to be the largest wooden structure in the world and the largest structure held together by glue.
We “discovered” the Metropol Parasol more by accident than intent. The old quarter of Seville is a warren of wandering narrow streets. In the process of finding our way we stumbled on many unexpected things. The Metropol Parasol was perhaps the most surprising. We learned that it is possible to ride an elevator to the top structure and explore the “roof” on a walkway.
Wikipedia provides the back-story: Construction of the Metropol Parasol began in June of 2005 with an estimated cost of 50 million Euros. The project soon faced difficulties. By May 2007 engineering firm discovered that the planned structure was technically infeasible as designed, given that a number of structural assumptions had not been tested. The plans appeared to violate the limitations of known materials. An alternative design with glue providing reinforcement was ultimately used. By some estimates, the final total cost of the structure approached 100 million Euros when it was completed in 2011.
The Guardian calls the Metropol Parasol an icon. For us it is somewhere between eyesore and icon. But then architecture like this can become an acquired taste. After all, the French hated the Eiffel Tower and the Pompidou Center when they first opened. Now they are both undoubtedly iconic. Perhaps that will be true of the Metropol Parasol also.